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SACRAMENTO - Red tape abated, or so the proponents of the Marine Life Protection Act will tell you. After a pause that lasted months, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4-1 to set October 1, 2011 as the effective implementation date for vast South Coast MLPA ocean fishing closures approved back in distant December 2010. At that time they’d set spring 2011 as the target start date. We all know how well that worked for them.

Anglers who fish Laguna, Point Dume and the other areas slated for closure shouldn’t circle October first in black just yet. The vote unleashes a new ream of red ribbon. The regulations adopted by the commission back in distant January will be filed with the state Office of Administrative Law on July 15. That agency has until August 26 to complete its review.

Given the legal threat looming over the South Coast region, which stretches from Point Conception to the US-Mexican border, the OAL may pay special attention to the regulations. If every “I” isn’t dotted, they may kick it back to the commission, once again delaying the closure date.

That legal threat comes courtesy of Partnership for Sustainable Oceans members Robert C. Fletcher, UASC and Coastside Fishing Club. These PSO partners are 3-0 in their court battle against “tainted” South and North-Central Coast ocean closures. A trial date is expected soon.

“We don’t want those [South Coast] regulations to go into effect. We think they’re flawed, the result of a corrupt process. We can file for an injunction if necessary,” Fletcher said, dismissing the October 1 closure date.

Commissioner Dan Richards, the sole no vote on setting a South Coast start date, was blunt in his opposition, asking DFG Director McCamman whether the legislature had provided funding for MLPA implementation. McCamman admitted the cupboard is as bare as it ever has been for legally required formalities such as enforcement, public outreach and monitoring, admitting yet again, “We don’t have adequate funds to carry out this program.” This story is far from over.

In other Sacramento fish and game news, the legislature tried to pull a fast one by diverting $4 million in fishing license revenue designated for the Hatchery and Inland Fisheries Fund to “timber harvest plan review” and state forest nurseries. Governor Jerry Brown didn’t stand for the budgetary trickery. He used his line-item veto powers to strike it, honoring his pre-election commitment to the sporting community and preserving federal matching funds for recreational fishing. The governor’s action is in contrast with the unlamented prior Schwarzenegger administration, which was openly contemptuous of anglers and hunters.

For WON exclusive maps of the planned South Coast closures, click over to Donate to the Fletcher / UASC / Coastside legal fund at

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